Any school teacher who has had a long stint would be able to provide some insights on the evolution of names of students over two or three generations.
Take Tam-Bram male names. In my father’s time, the popular names would have been Venkataraman, Ramamurthy, Krishnamurthy, Vishwanathan etc. My own classmates tended to have shorter names such as Ramesh, Suresh, Kumar, Shankar, etc. My daughters have classmates bearing names such as Bhargav, Aditya, Pranav, Jaidev, etc.
Female names have undergone a similar transformation, from the Visalakshis and Saraswathis of my mother’s generation, to the Geethas, Seethas and Ushas of mine, and the Ankitas, Sadhikas and Priyankas of my daughter’s.
In fact, a cousin of mine tricks any new, unsuspecting kid that he comes across, with the question, “ Do you know Lakshmi Miss who is a teacher in your school?”, or “ Is Aditya your classmate?”. Invariably the answer is “yes, how did you know?”.
In his book, “The Stuff of Thought”, Steven Pinker devotes an entire chapter to this subject. How do certain names suddenly become popular?. You may want to give a distinctive name to your son or daughter and go through a long process of choosing the name. Then when you go to enroll him or her in school, you discover to your dismay that there are two more kids bearing the same name. Pinker cites several reasons, but one important factor in some names springing up is phonesthesia, according to which vocal sounds have the capacity to convey definite meanings. This, in turn, can be influenced by several social factors, unique to that region and to a specific era. It is therefore a shared cultural response.
Pinker points out that his own first name, Steven, was rarely used in the early part of the twentieth century, but suddenly became popular around the ‘50s.
Samuel Goldwyn, film producer, was supposed to have told a couple who were about to name their child William, “Don’t call him William. Today, every Tom, Dick and Harry is named that.”.
If any of the readers know more about this interesting subject, please do share.